By Rebecca Drew
THIS BODY positive fitness fanatic with a whopping 955K Instagram followers had cruel bullies SPIT ON HER at school for being ‘fat’ and has been criticised for her curvy weight gain transformation and told that she can’t be her size and fit and healthy – despite working out up to SIX DAYS A WEEK.
When growing up, IT worker, Nicole Herring (23) from London, UK, was bullied for how she looked throughout school and when her body started to develop more curvy than her friends, she was labelled ‘fat’ by nasty bullies who threw drinks on her and spat at her.
This had a major impact on Nicole’s mental health and self-confidence as she would often comfort herself with sugary snacks when she came home from school in tears and would always make sure she was covered up in loose clothing.
In 2013 Nicole joined a gym with the aim of losing weight and would do an hour of cardio a day and over time she started to change her mindset towards her body. After a few months, Nicole started lifting weights and was surprised with how she could completely transform her shape by using them and can now lift up to 110kg.
In June 2016, Nicole started her Instagram account to chart her progress at the gym and before long realised that instead of losing weight, she was gaining it. However, she felt more confident and with her body than ever before and started to break outside of her comfort zone with the clothes she wore. Nicole has gone from 10st 3lb and a UK size 10-12 to 12st 12lb and a UK size 14-16.
Before Nicole would have two slices of toast for breakfast, two sandwiches for lunch during the week for lunch or roast dinner or takeaway at the weekend, and for dinner she would eat large portions of homemade meals or have two to three takeaways a week and snack on chocolate, cakes and sweets. Now Nicole has cereal six days a week for breakfast, allowing for a carb-based breakfast at the weekend, meat and vegetables or salad for lunch, a homemade meal of meat and vegetables for dinner with sweet potatoes instead of white and allows herself one takeaway a week. She snacks on fruit, salad and rice cakes during the week but allows herself a cake or chocolate at the weekend.
Despite working out five to six times a week, Nicole has people ask her how she can be her size yet still go to the gym and even tell her that she can’t possibly be fit and healthy, but Nicole is eager to breakdown the gym stereotype and wants to encourage other people of all shapes and sizes to love themselves for who they are and make the gym inclusive for all.
“The bullying started off about my teeth being wonky and having acne. I was called every name possible and when I got braces and my medication for my skin, the bullies had to find something else so I was then bullied for being ‘fat’,” said Nicole.
“My group of friends were slim so when my body started changing and becoming more curvy, the bullies noticed and started using it against me. I used to cry when I got home from school some days because I was spat on, had drinks thrown over me, physically abused by the boys and verbally abused most days at school.
“In my case, I used to binge on snacks high in calories and sugar to process my emotions which didn’t help my attitude and mental health towards my body. I saw I was getting stretch marks at a very young age which upset me even more because no one else I knew had them. I’d cover up my body as much as I could when I would go out with friends because I didn’t want others finding out and using it against me.
“I hated my body and I continued to hate it until I started going to the gym. I started going to the gym for the wrong reasons with an unhealthy mindset. Whilst going to the gym, I started viewing my body in a different light and my mindset was gradually changing. I started to become more comfortable within myself no matter how my body looked.
“When I was slimmer and thought I was ‘fat’ I would cover up in baggy clothing and would only wear clothing like skater dresses and skirts and oversized shirts so no one could see my stomach rolls or back fat. During my journey to self-love and confidence I started venturing out to different clothing.
“I remember trying on my first bodycon dress and actually feeling good in it. Now all I wear is bodycon items and crop tops. I’m no longer afraid to show people that I have body rolls or stretch marks. A few years ago, I wore a bikini for the first time on a beach and I felt like I had achieved my biggest fear yet. Bikinis were never something I owned because I hated my body but now I have too many.
“One of my biggest achievements is no longer caring what others have to say about me. I’ve learned that no matter what you do in life, there will always be someone who will put you down. It’s my life at the end of the day and I need to do what’s best for myself.”
Nicole has become an Instagram sensation with her 955K followers and she spoke about how she deals with any negative comments she receives about her body and her love for the gym.
“I try to educate people in hopes they can see where I am coming from. Majority of the time, the people who criticise me don’t go to the gym which shows their lack of understanding. I find that people who are into fitness understand everyone has different goals and the main benefit of working out is to make a positive change to our lifestyle,” she said.
“I explain to others that the gym for me personally is a lot more than just physical. Gym is therapy for me, and it has been since joining. It’s become my second home and it’s had such a positive impact on my mental health.
“I want to try and break down this stereotype because we all have our own different versions of what we class as fit and healthy. Others need to understand that anyone who is going to the gym no matter what shape or size you are, we’re making a difference to our health whether it’s a small change or not.
“When I created transformation posts, I gradually saw I was getting bigger (more fat and muscle) and I was totally ok with it. I never intentionally wanted to gain weight it’s just happened over time.
“I think part of it is due to the fact I don’t bother to track my food now because I don’t want to put pressure on myself or focus on the numbers and scales. I eat intuitively and just make sure I’m eating more healthier foods throughout Monday to Friday and then on the weekend I allow myself to eat whatever I want.
“I’ve always gone to the gym five to six times a week depending on how my body feels throughout my whole journey. I don’t believe in all these fad diets that aren’t maintainable. If I want to eat a doughnut or two then I will. I’ll never feel bad about it because life is too short to not enjoy the things you love and I know from experience that if I cut out everything I love I just end up binging on it eventually.
“Since creating my Instagram there are way more accounts dedicated to self-love and body positivity now, which is great. There’s women and men of all shapes and sizes that have accounts and help others feel good about themselves which is what we need.
“It’s definitely made me feel a lot more comfortable within myself knowing that there are others going through the same emotions and feelings I do. The confidence other women put out and the love and support I get from my following, inspires me to carry on doing what I do.
“Over the period of having my Instagram, my confidence has increased dramatically because I’ve allowed myself to be put out there at my most vulnerable and show off my ‘imperfections’.”
Finally, Nicole shared her words of advice to people who might be apprehensive about joining the gym.
“Just go for it. Even to this day I worry when I go to a new gym, especially those that have a reputation where mainly body builders and those who compete go. As I am curvy and not lean in the slightest, I always get a little nervous walking in thinking people will judge me but in reality, no one is judging because they’re focused on their workout,” she said.
“Some other advice I give is to find a gym that is quite big and 24/7. My gym is over four floors and is 24/7 so this way people are more spread out. You will also get to know what days and times are the busiest if you wanted to avoid going at peak times.
“My last piece of advice is to take some equipment that can be used for a variety of exercises into a quiet area of the gym if you are not feeling confident or comfortable.
“Self-love and body confidence grow overtime. It’s not something you can magically fix overnight. Your attitude and behaviour have to start thinking more positively about your body.
“Turn your negative thoughts into positive ones. Have a healthy relationship with food. Wear clothing that you feel confident in.
“Understand that what you see on social media is far from reality, many people edit their pictures to hide ‘imperfections’ and only the best photos are shown with the perfect lighting and angles.
“Lastly, follow people on social media that are positive influences and make you feel good about yourself.”
For more information see www.instagram.com/nlhfit